A Typical or Atypical Pastor's Wife-whichever one you come to believe



Welcome to the barnyard. Watch your step! The things written here are raw and unedited. Just my thoughts thrown on a page as they flow from my heart.



Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Shop Talk--Where Have All The Volunteers Gone?

When Pastor's wives get together, the subject of conversation eventually gets around to shop talk. (That's after talking about labor and childbirth, of course!) One subject that often comes up is the issue of finding volunteers in the church. Here is an article that I was asked to write as a result of these discussions.

Congregations present many ministry challenges to the Pastor. One of the greatest challenges of any Pastor is finding people willing to help him in faithfully meeting and fulfilling those challenges. Many a conversation between clergy has been about the challenge of finding “volunteers” to help with the ministries of the church. Lack of people to fill these positions can hinder, cripple and yes, even kill a local body.


Many a chat room and many a minister’s meeting has produced creative ideas as to how to get congregation members to volunteer, but even those seem to come full cycle and we are left begging for help. In my pre-med classes in college, I learned that a reoccurring problem is an indication that you have only treated a symptom and not the cause. So, perhaps this reoccurring problem of lack of volunteerism is a result of treating a symptom instead of the cause.


My mamma used to say, “when you point a finger at someone or something else, there are four fingers pointing right back at ya.” And as I have thought about this, I believe that the problem certainly has come home to roost, right in the Pastor’s lap.


James 4:3 says, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. “


When we ask for “volunteers” in the Body of Christ, I believe we ask amiss in the sense that the word “volunteer” is never once mentioned in scripture. Yes, God did ask “who will go?”, but he was talking to specific persons, not a group of people. It wasn’t because God had trouble finding volunteers to do His bidding. He already knew what was in the hearts of those He asked, and knew what their answer would be. God is love, so when He asks, it’s never an act of compulsion or manipulation. The love of God allows and makes room for willing responses.


In scripture we find contrasting types of people. There are those that were hired, and those who willingly served. There are false shepherds (hirelings) and true shepherds (servants). We find those who are compelled, and those who are willing. When God needed a Messiah, Christ was not offered a reward. He was not hired, He was not compelled, He came willingly out of love and in service to His Father. He came as a servant, not a volunteer.


Service is one the main themes of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Suppose, instead of asking for volunteers from our congregations, we ask for servants instead? This is not just a case of semantics. There are vast differences between a volunteer and a servant. Unfortunately in our society volunteerism and servant hood are thought of as being similar, indeed congruent by some. However, scripture proves that there are vast differences.

In considering the differences between the two we see that:


Volunteers usually desire thanks for the service they provided.
Servants give thanks for the privilege of serving.


Volunteers desire recognition for their service.
Servants desire recognition for the one they did the service for.


Volunteers serve when they can
Servants serve when they’re asked

Volunteers receive a sense of self gratification when they serve
Servants serve in order that others can be gratified, even if they receive no gratification for themselves.
When we pioneered our last church, we never once asked for volunteers. From day one, we asked for servants. People looked at us like “what?” A few trickled in at first, but as we modeled, preached, taught and discipled servants, they began to increase. I honestly believe that many Christians have no sense of Biblical servanthood because they have not been taught Biblical servanthood. When they became Christians it was to receive from God. They came to receive forgiveness, an answer to their problems, a better life, healing of some kind, to add God to their lives—all good things and certainly things we receive from God, but Christianity is about receiving a new nature, the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to serve.


Philip. 2:5-8 (KJV)
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.


Our salvation was necessary for service, because by being saved, we have been set free to serve. Prior to salvation we were unfit, unable, and unacceptable for service to God, therefore we were servants of the devil and servants for ourselves. After salvation, all things become new because our nature becomes new.


Another “good ole saying” my mamma used to say was “we does what we is”, translated, we do what we are. A dog barks, a frog croaks, a skunk stinks. If a dog wanted to be a frog, he could go to a pond, sit on a lily pad and bark until he croaked, but it would not make him a frog. He could paint his fur green, transplant warts onto his back, and use his tongue to catch flies, but he would still be a dog. The only way for a dog to become a frog is to have a DNA change.


God calls to BE His servants, not just to serve. The false shepherd does the same job as the true shepherd, but there is a world of difference between the two. The attitude of the heart in the true shepherd is one of servicefirst to the one who put him in that position and secondly to the sheep. The false shepherd’s heart is to profit from the sheep. In Matthew 25, Jesus makes the difference clear between those who do and those who are.
Matthew 25:35-46 (KJV)
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.


Here we find the true servants asking, “when did we do these things?” They didn’t even realize what they had done! Why? Because they did it naturally, it was second nature to them. Just as it is second nature to sinners to sin—they don’t think about it, they just do what they are. So we, as Christians, having the new nature of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, will serve because Christ is a servant, and His nature was given to us and service is second nature to us now! It’s not something we contemplate, it’s just what we do because of who we are.


Scripture tells us that Christ:


-John 5:19 – could do nothing by himself
-John 5:30 –could do nothing…sought not to please Himself
-John 5:41-did not accept praise from men
-Jn. 6:38- came…not to do His own will.
-Jn. 7:16-taught not His own doctrine, but taught the doctrine of God
-Jn. 7:28- did not come on His own, but was sent by another
-Jn. 8:28-can do nothing of His own accord
-Jn. 8:50-did not come seeking glory for Himself
-Jn. 14:24-did not preach His own Words

Christ came as the perfect example of a servant of the Lord. He gave up all His rights and privileges in order to willingly and voluntarily serve the Father. His father’s will was His will. His father’s desires were His desires. He was only concerned with the Father’s agenda, the Father’s property, the Father's reputation.


As ministers, we must model servant hood for our congregations. They need to observe our willingness to lay aside our rights, privileges, and desires for the sake of gospel of Jesus Christ. We must be willing to preach the whole truth, even when it hurts because, as my favorite t-shirt says, “it’s not about us, it’s about God.” They must see that we are willing to risk popularity, reputation, and comfort for the sake of the message of another, no matter the cost. They must observe that we are whole heartedly sold out to building the kingdom of God and not our own kingdom.


Secondly, we must preach and teach servant hood. Our congregation must understand that we cannot serve two masters, Luke 16:13. They must understand that we serve God first and only. They must understand that when they became Christians, they became servants!! They then must understand that the service of God most often involves the serving of others, as His ambassadors. An ambassador is one who carries the message of another which he delivers exactly the way he received it, without deviating from it, even a little.


Thirdly, we must disciple in such a way as to develop servants. Jesus discipled His followers in the following manner. He showed them what to do, and they watched him. John 2:11 Then He showed them what to do and allowed them to help, as in the miracles of feeding the multitudes. Then He had them do it while He helped. Then He had them do while He watched. Then He commissioned them to go and do. Through his discipleship they went from “doing” to “being”, and that is what changed the world. We must actively involve those “becoming” servants in the servant hood learning process.


Most faithful church attendees are there because they have a desire to love and serve God. Scripture tells us that if we want to be great in His kingdom, we must be the servant of all, no matter who or what needs service. This is not a hard thing for “God has shed His love abroad in our hearts”. We must, by faith, allow that love to flow into the lives of others as we care for and serve the body and those around us, in His name.


When the disciples chose deacons, they didn’t choose men and compel them to serve. They chose those that were already servants at heart and put them in a position of service. The reason they could do this was because those believers understood that the true working out of salvation is through service, first to God, and then to others. It’s not a position, it’s not a calling, it’s what we are if we have truly been born again and received the new nature of Christ.

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention humility because service is not possible unless there is first humility. Humility is the springboard that lifts us up to a life of servant hood. James tells us to “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift us up.” But from where does He lift us and to where does He exalt us? We are lifted from death to life. We are lifted from nothingness to the lowliness of Christ. We are lifted out of selfishness into selflessness. We are exalted when we have been raised into the humility of Christ. At the very center of Christ’s humility, is servant hood. It is hard to separate the two.


So next time you need help in ministry, don’t ask for volunteers, ask for servants. If no one responds, well…..you have a sermon series idea! Your congregation will never be happier than when they see the glorious purpose and freedom in servant hood, and you will never have to ask for volunteers again. I know, we tried it, and it works!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Campus MInistry WAS Worth it ALL!

     When we entered campus ministry we entered with the full knowledge that statistics said that very few of those who would become actively involved in the ministry would actually continue their walk with God when they were adults.  In some ways, we wondered why God would ask us to become involved in such a futile cause!  But when God calls you to something, you don't ask why, you just say yes.

This past Saturday, we had the privilege of sitting down with a young woman who had been part of our first year of campus ministry.  When she had been a part of our group on campus, I had always been impressed with her genuinally sweet spirit.  Now, 18 years later, I was again impressed that she had not seemed to change one bit.  I know that she is different.  You don't travel the world doing missions work and remain the same---not ever!  But that same, sweet, genuine person was just the same as I remembered her. 

There have been others from that same group who have chosen to walk completely away from God.  We knew that would happen.  "Narrow is the road and few there be that find it."  We had sown a lot of seed knowing that some would not fall on fertile ground.  And considering the statistics, you would think that the relatively few victories that you see might be a little anti-climatic.  Not so!

To sit there, listening to her, hearing her heart as she revealed her dreams and desires in conversation was such a privilege and a joy.  And at that moment, I thought to myself, "even if she was the only good thing that would have come out of those years of neverending pizzas, late night calls, long evenings, very advanced practical jokes, and heart wrenching goodbyes, it would have been worth it all!"   That almost seemed ridiculous to me, but it drove home the realization of the value that God puts on just one soul. 

And on those days when I want to move from guarding the sheep back to the dairy barn, I think about all those that God allowed us to know through those years that are serving God with all their hearts today and I realize how privileged I am to know them.  I realize how wonderful it is to serve God by helping others as He lays out the path before them.  And it gives me hope.  And it builds my faith.  And it spurs me on.  And it lets me see into the heart of Almighty God and I am blessed!  And I stand in awe of His wonderful workings. 




 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Feeling Comfortable In My Own Skin

My daughter abhors the weight loss commercial where the woman testifies "I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin." But I find that many people that I know seem to be that way, and they don't even need to lose any weight. The reason is that they aren't who they portray themselves to be. I lived like that for years. I fell into the "Pastor's wives mold" trap and tried to appear that I was everything that everyone expected me to be. Move over Superwoman! What bondage! Pretty soon, I didn't even know myself! I had fallen into a religious trap and it rendered me unrelational with others and with my God.

There is a big difference between religion and relationship.



Religion is something that is done in an attempt to grow into a relationship with God.



Relationship is something born out of the realization of God and produces works that could be called "religious".



One is acting like something they want to become in hopes that they will become it. (Boy, if this worked, it would be so convenient. )



The other is actually being something and just acting according to what they are. This is much easier! :-) It's very freeing to act like yourself!



In Mt. 6:1, we are instucted to not practice our righteousness before men to be seen by them..... This is saying that we should not do good works in public to prove that we are righteous or to try to appear righteous when we're not. To me doing something so that someone thinks a certain way about me is sure evidence that I'm not what I'm trying to portray myself as to the world.



If we will practice righteousness in our private lives, it will be evident in our public life without any effort on our part. We all know that when our public and private lives are at odds with one another that no matter how hard we work at protraying a good public image, eventually in a moment of unguardedness or weakness, our secret life will come shining forth like the midday sun! Our secret lives are our real lives folks! It's who we really are!



My hubby always says that what you are at home is what you really are. Who you are when no one is looking is who you really are. So, if our public lives and private lives are in perfect union and harmony, we need take no thought of our public life at all. Our righteousness will be seen by others because we ARE righteous. And the good part of it is that we can just be ourselves--the self that Christ is in us!

Does that mean that people will always love and accept us? NOPE!
Does it mean that we will never need to change? HARDLY!
Does it mean that we all the sudden feel comfortable no matter where we are or what we are doing? We can only dream!

What it does mean is that we will be genuine people. I like genuine people. People who are just what they are, all the time, in every circumstance. Genuine people are the kind of people that others feel comfortable with, even when they don't agree with them. I hate it when people patronize me because I'm the Pastor's wife. I just want to slap them and say "GET REAL!" Just say what you think and think what you say. But do it in love!

I'm so glad that God has set me free to just be what He has made me to be. Even though that person is alot like the Apostle Peter, blundering through life with more zeal than wisdom sometimes, I'm comfortable in my own skin. And that is a good thing!





Friday, March 19, 2010

I Love Ice!

I love ice! I love the kind that you chew, even though it knocks the enamel off your teeth. Calypso likes it too! I love the kind you skate on, except when you end up falling on it. I don't like the kind you slide on in the car which can send you and your 4 kids to the trauma center, but hey, how often is that going to happen?


What I really love about ice the the way is melts and freezes and takes on interesting shapes! At times if forms all along the edge of the creek and it looks as if God has put an icy eyelet edging all along the water as if embellishment of this beautiful spot could add any more beauty to it.














This formation reminds me of Old Man Winter blowing an icy wind across the water. Quite scary!

These lovey droplets were everywhere along the creek.


They almost look like icy chandeliers hanging over the water.





Okay, I admit it. I should probably find something better to do in the winter than to risk dropping my camera in the water to get a few icy photos. But every winter I am drawn to this beautiful spot and I am never disappointed by what I find.


















Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Don't Want to be a Grumpy Old Woman

Most of my friends know that I hate to shop. I hate to shop for anything, except Christmas presents. I ESPECIALLY hate grocery shopping. Today was G-Day. So I loaded up my very itemized list, the check book and headed to Sams Club. You see, I have 3 growing teenagers, so Sams Club packaging is perfect for our needs.

I was almost done shopping when I remembered that my daughter needed socks. So I whirled around and headed for the sock isle, which also happens to be the shoe isle, where I saw these cute little numbers.


I am not an Emelda Marcos. I have very few pairs of shoes. They all look alike to me. But these little babies just really appealed to me. They had them in all different colors. Black? Not summery enough. Tan with a little brown? Pretty, but tan and white feet don't go very well together. Brown with a little tan? Now these had potential!

Then I saw them! Blue! Oh beautiful blue! Gotta have a pair blue! Birthday money burning a hole in my wallet blue! These'll match everything I own so I really SHOULD get them blue. I really do NEED a pair of slip-ons for summer blue! Oh yeah!

So I leaned in real close, looking through the bottom half of my not-the-right-prescription bifocals to see if I could find a pair in size BIG. I had been there awhile when I noticed some movement out of the corner of my right eye.

A woman was standing there. "Oh, I'm sorry!, I said. Do you need me to move my cart?"


"Well, NOT ANY MORE!" she said as she whirled her cart around and went over to the next aisle.

Now, here I was, having a rare moment of actually enjoying shopping and some old, grumpy lady who really needs to get her priorities straight, or get a life altogether, had to come along and ruin it. I mean really! I don't know how long she was there. I had my back turned to the direction she came from. She could have cleared her throat or banged my cart. She could have sneezed, broke out in song, or.....now this is a novel idea........could have said "excuse me, please." But no, she just snuck up on me and stood there without saying a word thinking that the whole of the universe was centered on her and her retired schedule.





What she didn't realize is that my dog does that too and I ignore her because she is supposed to ring the bell when she needs to go!





Didn't she see that I was having fun shopping for these?



As she went out of eyeshot, I hollered "have a nice day!" Then under my breath, "you bundle of joy!"


Then I went to WalMart to finish up. I needed a $.98 box of saltines. As I rounded the corner of the cracker isle, I noticed a cart full of unstocked crackers sitting in the aisle right in front of the, can you guess? Yes, right in front of the saltine crackers that I wanted to purchase. The guy took one look at me and opened a carton and began to stock the shelf. I'm not unreasonable. I know they are busy. I didn't mind waiting for him to stock a carton of 12 boxes of crackers. When he finished, he looked at me again and proceeded to open and stock another carton of crackers and another, and another. For a moment there, I felt frozen in time. Finally as he reached for 5th carton of crackers, I said, "please excuse me, but I'm not standing here to watch you stock crackers. I just want to put a $.98 box of saltines in my cart." He never said a word, but the sigh of disdain was big enough to know what he was thinking. He stepped aside. I got my crackers, looked at him and smiled and said "have a nice day!" Then under my breath, "you bundle of joy!"


Come on now! Some people need to be gettin some joy on up in here! I mean really!


This didn't happen today but it reminded me of another lady I met one day at the deli counter. She ordered 1 pound of sliced ham. When the slicing girl gave her the package, she looked at the label and proceeded to have a major meltdown. "I told you that I wanted 1 pound of ham! I didn't ask for 1.01 lbs of ham, I wanted 1 pound of ham. "You people" do this to everyone. You sell us more than what we ask for just to make a few extra pennies. It's a grocery store conspiracy! Why can't you just give me 1lb?"


Now I'm standing there in shock. I'm sure my mouth had to be hanging open as I observed this 3 ring circus all balled up into one very obstinate lady! At that time, I had just brought 3 of my 4 children home from the hospital after almost burying two of them from injuries due to an accident. Experiences such as those kind of jolt your priorities right into order. So to stand there and observe a woman upset about .01 lbs. of meat was so ridiculous to me that I just literally exploded into laughter. I laughed until I cried. Now she was the one standing there looking at me with her mouth open. "Lady, I said. You need to get a real life." She kind of did that whirling around thing like the lady in the shoe isle did and off she went.


I looked at the horrified, almost in tears slicing girl and told her that if I had been her, I'd have taken the meat back, opened the package, took off the top slice, bitten a bite out of it, slapped it back on the pile, wrapped it back up and said "there, now it weighs one pound". "Oh, my, she said, if I did that I'd get fired!" Then, from the back of the store I heard the manager yell up, "No you wouldn't!"


As I headed home I prayed, "Lord, please don't let me grow into a self-centered, grumpy, old lady who whirls though grocery stores ruining everyone's fun! Amen!"

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lead By Example-Gisela Yohannan

I pray that my children can honestly say that I was a good example of Christ to them!

Teaching by Example
April 1999
Dear Sister,


"In this letter, I would like to share a few thoughts with you that
I have found to be very important in serving the Lord.
Did you know that even if you never presented one lesson in
a Sunday school class, God specifically chose you to be a teacher?
You see, there is another way of teaching besides lecturing. It’s the
one Paul describes in 1 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 2:7: “ . . . be an
example.”
The most powerful teaching is not with words, but by example.
Our lives are designated by God to become models for
others to observe and learn how biblical truth is translated into
everyday life.
Jesus revolutionized our understanding of God by what He
did after His sermons: touching lepers, taking time to embrace
and bless children, walking away when people tried to make Him
king, washing the disciples’ feet and praying for those who crucified
Him.
Likewise, Paul trained his co-workers and converts by his example:
going back to the place where he was stoned to preach
again, singing praises to God at midnight after being beaten and
jailed and fervently praying for the churches and writing letters to
them—while waiting for his execution in a Roman prison.
The strongest influence on our own children, our Bible school
students and the believers in our churches is our example. It speaks
much louder than words.
Our example reproduces in others what we are ourselves.
The pattern they see in us, good or bad, becomes their teacher. If
we put God first, they will too. If our walk with the Lord is consistent,
our faith unshakable, our lives free of bitterness and our
hearts full of forgiveness, that’s what those around us will become
as well.
But believe me, our negative attitudes, our insincerity, our carelessness
and our secret greediness for money and material things
will transfer just as strongly. And it bears enormous consequences
for God’s kingdom. Those who are taught by your example will
pass the same on to others. Take a good look at the things you
don’t like in your children, co-workers, Bible school students or
church members and ask yourself: “What did I contribute to create
this?”
We are automatically teachers as long as just one person
observes us! My dear Sister, that’s the thing we most often forget.
For those of us who are married, it is easy to complain in the
privacy of our heart or in front of our children that the ministry
is robbing us of the good things in life. Even if we never put it
in words, the atmosphere we create is incredibly destructive and
teaches volumes to those watching us.
That’s one of the main reasons why many children of Gospel
workers resent their parents’ ministry and choose a secular job
rather than serving the Lord.
When our children were born, I decided that I would not
allow any resentful attitude to take root in my heart and that I
would never talk negatively about serving the Lord in front of
Daniel and Sarah. Yes, there were times that I cried when my husband
had to travel so much and we three were often alone. But I
always told our children, “Jesus is worth it, and we are privileged
to help others come to know Him.” I made sure that they knew I
was in total agreement with what my husband was doing.
“Follow my example” was Paul’s invitation to the Christians.
Please read 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17 and 4:9, and 1
Thessalonians 1:6–7 and 2:8. Paul didn’t write this because he felt
he was perfect, but because he knew he was genuine in his faith
and pursuit of Christ.
I believe the Lord desires that each of us come to a place where
He can point to our life for others to learn what it truly means
to follow Jesus. Perhaps by reading this letter, you have discovered
an area in your life where your example created un-Christlike
attitudes in others. Bring this area to the Lord in prayer and, by
His grace, change the direction you were going. Be humble, and
confess to your children or co-workers that your influence taught
them the wrong thing. Most of all, let them see how Jesus has
changed your heart.

Dear Sister, I sincerely hope this letter is an encouragement for
your walk with the Lord. May God bless you and fill your heart
with His peace.
Your sister, Gisela

Friday, March 12, 2010

Evidence of a Birth

Last week, I had the awesome privilege of assisting in the birth of a baby. I've done this before, but this particular event left me with a sense of awe and wonder. I not only witnessed a new birth in the natural, but I saw clear evidence of a spiritual birth that had taken place a little over a year ago.



The birthing process is practically as old as dirt. It starts with the expectation of life, whether in the hope of a young couple, or as a surprise to the unsuspecting. Over time it matures, like a bud on a tree until at the appointed time, it then explodes into the world and says "here I am!" As with a bud, the outer covering is sloughed off and falls to the ground as a brand new life cycle begins.



While in the delivery room, there was surely evidence of a birth! There was a sack full of embryonic fluid, there was blood, there was a discarded placenta that had given life to that unborn child for nearly 9 months, there was sweat on the brow of the new mother, there were onlookers who gazed as if in a fog at the miracle they had just witnessed and of course, and there was a brand new, healthy, very vocal little baby announcing to the world that she had indeed arrived! All of this was very spectacular and I never cease to be amazed at the miracle of birth and all that it entails.



But this particular birth day was beyond what I normally observe in a delivery room. There was more than just evidence of a natural birth. There was unrelenting, undeniable, over obvious evidence that there had been a spiritual birth in the lives of this young couple. They had made the decision a little over a year ago to just go all out for God. They had dedicated their lives, their marriage, their very existence to the one that had saved them from their sin. Over the course of the last year and a half, I've come to know this couple. I've seen their hunger, I've observed their meek, submissive, teachable spirits. Yes, they were babes in Christ, but even I was not aware of all that God was doing in them until delivery day--that day when if character can be adequately tested, it is then.



Over the course of the pregnancy, this young mother had sought God about a lot of things concerning her pregnancy and the birth of their baby. Some of them, for a babe in Christ, were, in my mind, almost too lofty. But knowing that nothing is impossible with God if we just have faith to believe, we, as a church family, agreed together with them in prayer.



Finally the day of delivery came and we all gathered in the delivery room. As labor progressed and intensified, I watched as this young woman remained exactly the same. Her countenance never changed. As we talked and reminded each other of all that she was believing God for and all that she had come to believe about labor and delivery, a peace was evident in her face that was almost surreal. I observed strength and perseverance that was way beyond her years and that could only have come from God Himself. And when the child arrived, there were tears of joy and much rejoicing, just as scripture tells us there should be.



About 24 hours later, I awoke in the middle of night with tears running down my face. I knew that I had been profoundly affected by what I had experienced the previous day, but I really hadn't taken the time to sort through it all. As I lay there in the dark, my spirit just exploded in awe and wonder, not at the miracle of physical birth, but at the miracle of birth in the Spirit that I had seen evidence of. Being in ministry, I hear the words "I'm a Christian" ALOT! Unfortunately, all too often, the evidence of that declaration is missing when put to a test of character and faith. Anyone can go to church and act spiritual for a few hours and fool the whole world. It's only when you are in a situation that is completely out of your control that you learn what is truly inside. Just as tea seeps from a tea bag when placed in boiling water, what we are truly on the inside becomes obvious when we are under the heat of a hard circumstance.



I truly saw in their lives evidence of a birth. It was obvious that they too had been through the blood--the blood of Christ. Their old lives had surely passed away at the time of their birth and they were now new creations that announced to the world "Hey, I'm here!" I watched as family members who obviously had a different perspective about who this couple was as they stood in awe at the strength, peace and faith that they saw. I heard the comments of the doctor and the nurses as they worked during the delivery. But what I noticed most was the almost tangible presence of faith all throughout the room. And others noticed it too, although they couldn't identify what it was. I saw how in their very first pregnancy, this couple had grabbed hold of spiritual things that it took me 3 pregnancies to get. There was evidence that the time they had spent in the Word had prayer had been effectual and powerful.



It was one day I was truly humbled and blessed to be in ministry. It's easy to come to expect all the disappointments, all the seeming failures, all the times you wonder if maybe you should have done something differently in ministry. You feel the weight of a soul that falls into deception, or a soul who chooses to just walk away. You know that they were placed in your care by the Great Shepherd and you always take a step back to see if you were in any way responsible for it. You can even second guess yourselves at times.



But when you see the evidence of birth and healthy growth in the life of one of your sheep it can erase a lifetime of disappointments. In your spirit you just get that "yes, Yes, YES" because you realize that nothing has changed. The Word of God is still powerful, it is still active and it is still birthing spiritual life into the lives of lost humanity.



As we stood rejoicing around the bed after the birth of that beautiful child, I momentarily thought about the rejoicing in heaven that must have happened the day this young couple gave their hearts to Christ, leaving the old life behind, passing through the blood of Christ and into new life. And I understood why the angels rejoice over just one soul that finds it's way to the cross. Every life is precious to God. Every birth a new beginning--a moving from the dark confines of sin, through Calvary, into the marvelous light of God's love and life. And even now, I still stand in awe at the wonder of it all.